Friday, June 29, 2012

Rural Mental Health consultation in WA

Australian Greens spokesperson for Mental Health, Senator Penny Wright, travelled to Western Australia in early June to begin the first leg of an Australian-wide tour to hear about the unique issues affecting mental health care services for Australians living in rural, regional and remote areas.

Senator Wright said while the Federal Government had injected a significant amount of funding into mental health over the past two years, people living in rural and remote areas were still encountering problems accessing quality mental health services compared to their urban counterparts.

"People living outside our capital cities are facing distinct challenges when it comes to mental health care," Senator Wright said.

"The shortage of specialist mental health professionals is a key problem for many communities and general practices often have long waiting lists and limited referral options. Concerns about privacy and the stigma still attached to mental health issues mean many people in small communities are reluctant to seek help.

"Suicides in rural Australia are reportedly as high as one a week and, with the impacts from climate change predicted to worsen, these numbers are likely to rise in the future. Suicide has a profound impact on small communities and it is vital that we consider the most effective ways to reverse this devastating trend.

During the tour, Senator Penny Wright will listen closely to the people and organisations who come face-to-face with these issues every day.  "I am keen to hear from them about the gaps in services and the things that work well."

"We need to identify gaps in service delivery so we can determine what is needed to build healthier, more resilient communities, where people with equal need have access to equal services."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Depression as a Physiological Disease – Implications for Prevention and Intervention

Dr Chris Stapelberg - Major depressive disorder MDD
Dr Chris Stapelberg
While major depressive disorder (MDD) was regarded as a purely psychological disorder in the past, increasing evidence points to physiological mechanisms which contribute to this disorder, but also arise from it.

The same physiological mechanisms also underlie antecedents to depressive disorders, such as stress. Mechanisms such as hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction and autonomic dysfunction are implicated not only in MDD, but also in the development of other disease processes which co-occur with depressive illness, such as metabolic syndrome, atherosclerotic changes, inflammatory changes and platelet activation. These changes are in turn implicated in other medical conditions closely linked to MDD, including diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke.

A greater understanding of these disease mechanisms and their interaction will allow opportunities for disease prevention and early intervention. Viewing MDD as a physiological disease in addition to its adverse psychological impact raises several important issues: These include the recognition of stress and depressed mood as risk factors for developing metabolic changes and cardiovascular disease, and thus the importance of comprehensive medical screening in MDD patients.

Furthermore, the links between diseases like coronary heart disease (CHD) and MDD are reciprocal, putting people with pre-existing CHD at risk of developing depression, which in turn exacerbates CHD. Such reciprocal relationships have further implications for prevention and intervention, and in this context both existing and novel preventative strategies will be discussed.

Dr Chris Stapelberg, Consultant Psychiatrist, Griffith University and Queensland Health will present at the:

13th International Mental Health Conference, "Positive Change -- Investing in Mental Health6th to the 8th of August 2012, on the Gold Coast.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rural patients will benefit from new infrastructure grants

Mental Health AustraliaRural patients will benefit from new infrastructure grants to 50 projects across Australia, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek announced today.

Under Round 6 of the National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure Program, $8.7 million is being directed to the projects.

“While rates of some chronic disease are high for patients living in rural and remote areas, they often find it harder to access the level of health care they require,” said Ms Plibersek.

“That is why the Gillard Government is committed to setting up new rural health services or the improvement of existing facilities.”

According to the National Strategic Framework for Rural and Remote Health, rural areas have higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity as well as poor dental, antenatal and post-natal health.

Ms Plibersek said by providing essential health infrastructure, either as capital works or as equipment, the program made it easier for patients to get care when and where they needed it.

Examples of some of the grants are:

  • $500,000 for Tilligerry Medical Practice, Tanilba Bay, NSW, for relocation.
  • $328,198 for Optometry at Cooroy, Cooroy, QLD, for optometry equipment.
  • $453,550 for Njernda Aboriginal Corporation, Echuca, VIC, to renovate clinic.
  • $274,276 for Robe Dental, Robe, SA, to refurbish practice.
  • $395,000 for Hermitage Dental Kempsey, NSW, to expand services.
  • $250,000 for Physikal Health Services, QLD, for mobile physiotherapy capacity.
The National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure Program also funds strategic service planning for small rural private hospitals.

Funding is recommended by the independent National Assessment Panel.

For more information please contact the minister’s office on 02 6277 7220

Friday, June 22, 2012

Improving Employment Outcomes for People with a Mental Illness: Progress in the Hunter New England Region of NSW

Engagement in employment has been associated with significant financial, social and health benefits for people with a mental illness. However, as a population, people with mental illness experience high levels of unemployment and often have difficulty accessing services to support them.

Literature indicates that people with a psychotic illness have the worst employment outcomes of any disability group. Given the onset of mental illness often occurs in late adolescence, there is much to be done to prevent the disruption to employment and career trajectory that may occur with this illness experience.

Emma will discuss the progress of the implementation of evidence based employment services within the Hunter New England region mental health services in NSW. This region has been the leader in the state of NSW in the implementation of the Individual Placement and Support Model of supported employment.

Emma will describe the background to this model and its close alignment with the delivery of recovery based mental health services. Outcomes of the implementation of this model across nine different metropolitan and rural sites will be highlighted and compared to international benchmarks in this field.

Ms Emma Robson & Emma Smith, Occupational Therapists, Vocational Education Training and Employment Service, Hunter New England Mental Health will present at the:

13th International Mental Health Conference, "Positive Change -- Investing in Mental Health"  6th to the 8th of August 2012, on the Gold Coast. 

Web: Email:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Let’s Talk About Children: Dissemination of a family focused intervention

Improved outcome for children of parents with mental illness has been demonstrated through family focused interventions. Despite this, there are many barriers to family focused intervention in mental health service delivery.

Let’s Talk about Children was developed for use with families in which a parent has a mental illness. It focuses on improving communication surrounding mental illness, identifying children’s needs and linking the family with additional support or interventions. It has been used with parents with a range of diagnoses. It involves two to three sessions with parents. Let's Talk was developed in Finland by Prof Tytti Solantaus and was disseminated throughout the Adult Mental Health Service.

Through collaboration between the adult and child and youth mental health service, training in Let’s Talk has been offered. The feasibility of dissemination of an intervention such as this in the local context needed to be established.

Mary will focus on the response to offering training in the intervention to clinicians from a range of services. The results of a focus group discussion of barriers and enablers to a family focused intervention will be explored. Initial feedback with regard to the training offered and applicability to practice was positive.

There are particular issues related to the local context which need to be understood to assist in dissemination of a family focused intervention such as Let’s Talk.

Dr Mary Jessop, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Children's Health Services, Royal Children's Hospital will present at the:

13th International Mental Health Conference, "Positive Change -- Investing in Mental Health"  6th to the 8th of August 2012, on the Gold Coast.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Expert warns against child mental health checks

Mental Healrh Conference Australia
Professor Allen Frances

One of the most influential psychiatrists in the United States says the Federal Government's program to screen three-year-olds for mental health problems is "ridiculous" and potentially dangerous.

By Eleanor Hall -  ABC Radio

Australian preschoolers are set to be screened for early signs of mental illness as part of the Government-funded Healthy Kids Check, which would be voluntary for families.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) supports the initiative but says the evaluations must focus on broad-based problems rather than individual things like fear of the dark or fear of monsters.

The Healthy Kids Check will be predominately conducted by GPs who will refer children with troubling behaviour to psychologists and paediatricians.

The program will cost $11 million over five years and is expected to identify about 27,000 children who would benefit from extra support.

But Professor Allen Frances, an Emeritus Professor at the Duke University, has raised concerns about the scheme... more